16 years ago
The king and queen had invited us for dinner in Hydrus. I hadn’t left Virgus in two years. Mom and Dad were overjoyed when they heard we were coming to visit. They weren’t as happy when they found out that the Ophiuchus and Virgos had been invited to dinner at Hydra’s Palace.
I hadn’t been to the palace either. Mom felt bad when she heard that Belle took her first steps and she hadn’t been there to witness it. I had filmed almost everyday for the past two years for them to see.
Alfred and Magda were coming after us. We had left a week early to surprise Mom and Dad. Magda and Alfred were coming late since Alfred had work to do in Virgus. Mom pushed me to stay at their house but I had already planned to go to our home in Hydrus.
Rasal whispered in my mind everyday, on Mom’s demand to see how Belle and I were doing. We had been practicing Arabic like this since we last came to Hydrus, and I was a natural now. He was still disappointed that Belle wasn’t mature enough to control her telepathy and he’d get echoes of her crying and giggling at random moments.
Rasal was already freaked out by that and when I took Belle to the Ophiuchus Residence she squeezed him tightly when I asked her to say hello to her new friend. Belle simply nodded and mumbled in baby language as I explained that there was to be no physical contact with Rasal tonight. Rasal sensed that Belle had Greek, Latin and Arabic stored in her brain, she just had to unlock it. I thought it was true since sometimes she burst into words from those three languages. I doubt Belle knew what she was saying.
“Be good,” I pointed a finger at Belle as she drooled over her stuffed toy.
“You tell that snake to stay away from Bee,” Antonio said groggily. Workload and anxiety had made him age five years all of a sudden. Magda blamed that on me, saying I wasn’t taking care of him. She even tried to manipulate me to the point where I considered leaving but I couldn’t since I had a daughter to take care of.
“Rasal won’t harm Belle,” I repeated for the millionth time.
“I don’t care,” he almost shouted. His behaviour had changed over the years and Magda wasn’t helping since she had twisted him up.
I only sighed and reminded myself why I was doing this. For Belle, be patient.
Rasal and Mom had tried to convince me to file for divorce but I had decided it was best to keep my family together. Antonio made my Virgo Sign burn as a warning. It had made my right hand almost lifeless. Magda held back Alfred from confronting Antonio and I told them I was fine.
“Well, why wouldn’t you be?” Magda snapped everytime. “You’re living in a mansion, you’re a Lady thanks to my son who showers you with wealth and cares for your daughter. Be grateful.”
Yeah, he also controls me and tortures me, I added in my head but decided it was best to keep it to myself. Rasal knew about everything that happened to me, but we had never spoken about that. Sometimes he would say things that told me indirectly that he knows about my predicament.
“You have to stop doing that,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Eloise,” he spoke as if he was bored by me. I kept my quandary a secret. I only told Mom about Magda and her daily insults. She didn’t know the change in Antonio’s behaviour ever since I had tried to convince him to support the rebellion. He had gotten rude ever since I had ran away. He held the arguments for a few months and after I had Belle but once we got back to Virgus he was furious with me.
Before I could defend myself his phone started ringing. He tapped the screen and his eyes lit up.
“I have an important phone call. I’m going to the basement,” he said.
Alright, milady? I heard Rasal.
I’m fine, I answered. Why do you ask?
I felt a change in your emotions.
I’m fine, I repeated.
There was a knock on the door. Belle’s head shot up. I blinked back the tears and smiled.
“Come in,” I spoke.
Alfred’s head poked in. He picked up Belle and she jumped up and down at the sight of her grandfather.
“All ready?” Alfred asked.
“Almost,” I said. “When did you get here?”
“About two minutes ago,” he told. “Magda is insisting that we leave immediately.”
“Oh, of course,” I said.
Magda yelled something from her room.
“Let me breath, woman!” Alfred joked and exited the room. I changed into my dress, matching Belle’s. Mine fell to my knees and started at my collarbone. It was shimmery and had a fur overcoat. I gathered Belle’s essentials in her bag. By the time I was done, Antonio came back with a satisfied smile on his face. He buttoned up his shirt and put on his blazer.
As the door closed I heard something hit it and shatter. Probably a perfume bottle. Now the door smelled ike Stargazer Lilies.
Magda walked out of her room dressed in black and green with the neck of her gown so deep it should have been embarrassing. She wore black velvet gloves and heavy jewelry.
“Magda,” I greeted softly, ducking my head a little in respect.
“Eloise.” She smiled wickedly and with disgust. She stared at the spilled perfume and shattered glass on the floor behind me, flowing from inside my bedroom.
“Having trouble?” she asked in a sweet voice.
“Everything is fine,” I said confidently and went downstairs.
I heard her mumble something but couldn’t make out the words.
I put on a brave face and smiled for my parents, and for the sake of appearances on Magda’s demand. She had lectured me the whole way here. the minute we entered the Grand Hall she snatched Belle from me while my parents were busy talking to the king and queen. She handed Belle to a nearby maid who took her outside.
“Won’t be seeing her again.” Magda’s voice tickled my ear. A chill ran down my spine and I shuddered. I prayed to the Stars that she was just trying to scare me for her own amusement.
“Antonio,” she said in a low voice as we approached them. “Take care of Eloise. She’s acting very strange.”
Antonio eyed me suspiciously. “Can’t you behave for one night?” he scolded. I didn’t bother arguing, he always won.
“You can go back to being your problematic self when we go back to Virgus.” he added and turned away.
“Don’t worry,” Magda was only inches away from me. “You won’t see our wretched daughter or Virgus ever again.”
I started shivering. I didn’t know why she was bothering me so much today. I never get this petrified of her. I glanced at the door of the Grand Hall but Magda grabbed my arm, digging her nails into my flesh and pulled me towards everyone. Alfred argued with Magda, defending me as usual but it’s not like he had a hold on her.
Rasal slithered up my back. Don’t see Miss Belle anywhere.
She’s with a maid, I told. You can meet her after dinner. Can you check if she’s okay?
With pleasure. Rasal closed his eyes, his stones started glowing. She’s fine, she’s in a room down the hall and she’s almost asleep.
Everyone raised their glasses. I noticed that some of my cousins from Dad’s side were here. When Jaxon said in his letter that he was inviting the Ophiuchus, I thought he meant just Grayson Ophiuchus and Ariana Hydrus Ophiuhus, my parents but he had called the entire Ophiuchus family.
Magda looked smug and kept eyeing the guards, as if she was waiting for something exciting to happen. I told Rasal to go back to Dad.
I can’t seem to concentrate when there are so many Ophiuchus trying to talk to me, Rasal complained.
With the whole family here everyone must be demanding some time with the snake from Ophiuchus. Dad kept Rasal most of the time since he was the eldest in his family. But others from Ophiuchus were allowed to take him, of course.
I tried not to be bothered by the guards constantly filling each corner of the room. They were dressed in their green military uniforms, guns at their belts and the symbol of Hydra printed on their clothes.
For some reason, I didn’t really feel very secure. I kept glancing at the doors, now blocked by two tall guards. The floor to ceiling windows were blocked as well. The chandelier seemed to be getting dimmer and my breathing fastened, I felt like I was being suffocated. Rasal was speaking to me but I was too flustered to decipher his words.
The sound of gunfire made the room fall silent. A woman screamed. Mom. My head snapped in her direction. tears were streaming down her face and she was clutching my father’s body to her and repeatedly saying his name. I rushed to her side. Dad was covered in blood and his face was resting on the table. Another scream came from the end of the table.
I noticed that the king and queen along with Magda, Alfred and Antonio were being led out of the room through a hidden door in the wall. Alfred argued with Magda but she insisted that it’s crucial to leave at this moment. Though they were blurry through my tears I managed to understand their conversation. Alfred marched in our direction but a guard carried him back and practically threw him into the door. I got a glimpse of him as he left, I couldn’t hear him over the cries and screams but I knew he had mouthed the words I’m sorry. With that I knew he didn’t have the information about this plan but the others looked like they did. I knew they did.
Everyone had started running and trying to escape, only to get shot multiple times until the guards were satisfied.
Tears stained my cheeks making my face feel stiff. My insides twisted and turned. I looked around for Rasal. He too was suffering the pain of this. He was hissing in agony as more Ophuichus died. With each death I felt Ophiuchus dimming and it was like someone was tugging on my ribs.
Rasal, what do I do? I asked.
You can’t run, he hissed in pain. They’ll kill you and I’m already dying.
Did they get you too? Then I remembered that his life was tethered to ours’.
It’s been an honour serving you, he whispered in my head.
My eyes widened, I found it hard to move, my knees buckled and I fell. I searched my brain for a solution. This time I heard Mom shout for help but the gunfire cut her out and she fell to the floor with a thud. I screamed so much that I lost my voice. I looked around and realized I was the only one left. Last one. Last one.
Rasal slithered towards me, his eyes and stones were red and the Ophiuchus Sign on his back was glowing green. I’m left so he’s still alive, but for how long? How much longer?
Milady, they’re going to get you. Rasal told with no doubt.
Don’t say that, I begged.
We both know it’s true, he said with despair.
Take care of Belle, I said, realizing that he’d live even if something happened to since I’m not the last Ophiuchus. Belle is. She’ll be Rasal’s master. Rasal must serve her now. Promise me you’ll take care of her.
I cannot, Rasal said. I will die with you because Miss Belle is too young at the moment. But I will be resurrected when the time comes, when she is old enough to understand all of this.
I cried defiantly as his words entered my mind. Just thinking about my inevitable and imminent death sent spasms up my arms.
Right now, I will dissolve into stardust and go back to my Star Rasalhague and will return when Annabelle needs me. She is the last Ophiuchus now. I knew all this but as he recalled it I felt like I was hearing it for the first time.
He bowed his head and I lowered mine.
Pain shot up my spine. I fell to the floor.
Dear Stars, protect Annabelle.
Rasal whispered into my mind, Goodbye.
Goodbye, I spoke through pain. Choking up blood. I saw Rasal’s scales crack, his stones sinking into his skin and his body slowly turning into green and gold stardust.
I wished I could embrace Belle once. Tell her what she means to me and explain what happened and why I had to go. At that moment, I think I subconsciously started praying to the Stars that my Belle would be safe and that the Stars would guide her through her life. I scratched the marble floor in pain, there were four or five bullets in my back. My dress had turned crimson and scarlet. I got a glimpse of my Ophiuchus Sign in my last moment.
I sucked in a breath, my eyes closed with the picture of Belle flashing behind my eyelids.